Raindance conferences in VoIP

* Raindance integrates Web and telephone conferencing over VoIP

Raindance Communications plans to offer in March what it claims is the first integrated Web and telephone conferencing system based on emerging voice over IP technology.

The Web conferencing provider teamed with IP backbone company Level 3 Communications to develop the offering, which will be available in 70-plus locations across the U.S. Raindance officials say having an IP foundation for the company's Web conferencing service will result in immediate cost-savings for its corporate customers.

Pricing for the service has yet to be released but Raindance execs say monthly fees will be less than for its traditional service, which uses the Public Switched Telephone Network. In addition, end users will be able to access VoIP-based conferences using local numbers or less-expensive VoIP-based toll-free numbers, thereby reducing fees.

Having an IP foundation also will allow Raindance to add new features to its services. One possibility is voice recognition so end users don't have to type in so many numbers when they want to access a conference call from a mobile phone.

"Raindance has taken the lead in reevaluating the whole infrastructure for audio conferencing, and we're going to use VoIP as the delivery engine," says Todd Vernon, co-founder and CTO of Raindance. "We have a lot of good reasons for going IP. Some are price related. Our customers could see dramatic price reductions...But IP is also an incredible platform for innovation."

Enterprise customers do not need to purchase VoIP gear such as IP phones or IP PBXs to take advantage of the new Raindance service. However, companies that already have a VoIP infrastructure can integrate it with the Raindance VoIP service for additional savings.

Raindance expects its corporate customers to migrate to its VoIP-based offering over the next two years. "We will be 100% VOIP-based in 24 months," Vernon predicts.

The provider is using Level 3's VoIP-based local and toll-free services to underpin the new VoIP-based conferencing service. Level 3 execs say Web conferencing companies are interested in following Raindance's lead in adopting VOIP.

"Raindance is the first onboard and the first to deploy this type of application," Level 3 Vice President Dennis Kyle says. "We're talking to other call centers."

Founded in 1997, Raindance has 3,000-plus corporate customers including Oracle, Wells Fargo and Black & Veach. Its main competitors are WebEx and PlaceWare.

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